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The Results Are In

The results from the July 2017 California Bar Exam were posted on November 17th. I suspect you can tell by the delay between results being released and the writing of this post, I didn’t pass.

Reminder: Rob-tastic and I teamed up with Barbri to document and share our stories from studying for the July 2017 California Bar Exam.

He’s Zen. I’m Grumpy.

Bar Results Day
For the week before bar results were out, I was literally counting down the hours. There was nothing we could do to change the outcome. We just had to wait until the designated time when our results would be available. At 7pm on the button, I input my application number and a screen popped up that said my number didn’t match anything on the pass list.

I gasped. I did the full-on “gay gasp.”

I double and tripled checked my number, hoping that I typed it incorrectly.

No I didn’t. I failed bar exam.

I texted Rob. He didn’t pass either.

I was shocked. I spent the rest of the night in a daze with dashes of anger that were more pronounced as the hours passed. (On the flip side, I channeled my anger into a 17.5-mile run the next day. I averaged 9:46/mile.)

Telling the Friends
The bar results would soon be public for all and enough people knew the date they’d be released, so I knew I had to face the music sooner than later. Running for three hours gave me time to think about how I’d break the news. When I got back from my run, I posted to Facebook:

Bad News: I failed the CA Bar Exam.

Good News: I can bang all the Californians I want b/c the CA Rules of Professional Conduct don’t apply to me.

I know it’s not the classiest thing to post, but it was right mix of bluntness, anger, and sarcasm in the moment. Of course, all my friends were loving and supportive. Many of them responded with notes that I’ll pass it next time, which I thought was odd because I have no plans to take the California bar next year. My existing obligations and commitments don’t allow me to turn around and try again.

Will We Ever Take the CA Bar Exam Again?
Rob-tastic has already said that he’s taking the California Bar Exam again next summer. If he passes the second time around, I won’t need my own California license as long as we’re at the same firm. We’re both still fans of Barbri, and will use them again for future bar exams.

Oh, and I have to make a confession: I bought postcards planning to send them to our favorite Barbri instructors to thank them for their help during bar prep. We didn’t get to them before the bar exam, and I figured we could send them after we got results. Now I don’t want to send postcards. I still appreciate our favorite instructors.

So How Are We?
Rob says he’s “pretty Zen” about his results, “little disappointed, not terribly shaken up.” The fact remains that failing this test doesn’t change the fact that we’re lawyers. We’ve been kept plenty busy with client work, so we don’t have much time to think about this test. He’s putting any extra energy he has towards studying for the patent bar which he’s taking early next year.

I, on the other hand, am grumpy every time I think about my bar results. Failing was not part of my master plan, and I’m bummed I spent nearly $600 on my California character and fitness application. Thankfully, I have other projects keeping me busy so I don’t think about it often.

We want to thank Barbri for being our partner in this journey. We don’t attribute any of our results to them. If and when we take another bar exam, we’ll be doing it with Barbri’s help.

Solving the Problem of Bar Exam Travel

My phone rang at 7:50am this past Sunday. Who in their right mind would call me that early in the morning, and on a Sunday? I looked at the Caller ID on my phone and saw that it was my friend, Erin. We’d tweeted at each other earlier that morning so she knew I was up.

Erin was in a panic. She was at the airport to fly from Phoenix to Portland to take the Oregon Bar Exam this week.  She was supposed to change planes in Denver and her flight was delayed due to the storm in Colorado. She was petrified about getting trapped in Denver and was calling for advice. I calmed her down and she ended up changing her plans to a direct flight.

Virginia Bar Exam by Philip Larson from Flickr

Virginia Bar Exam by Philip Larson from Flickr

Erin’s situation got me thinking – why do you have to go to a state to take their bar exam? I think there should be a national bar exam, but until we get that, it makes more sense to take the bar exam wherever you live. Everyone takes the bar exam on the same days so why not set the system up so you can take any bar exam at any testing location, but throw in an extra fee for people taking other state bar exams? The main fee would go to the state whose bar exam you’re taking and the extra fee would make it worth other state’s while to let you test in their location. If the fee is cheaper than an airplane ticket, everyone wins!

The way the system is now, some states have a 2-day exam and some states have 3. I’d change the system so everyone has a 2-day test and make sure the testing time blocks are all the same (3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the afternoon). I’d put the out-of-state test takers a separate room or section to make it easier to give those individuals their test questions. The instructions are the same – answer the questions in the time allotted – so that’s not a problem.

I don’t think this idea has a potential problem with cheating more than the current system. Only a moron on the east coast would try to communicate with a west coast test-taker and tell them what’s on the test. When I took the bar exam, we had to be at the test location at 6:45am to start the test at 9am. There would be little if any time for someone in a different time zone to tell another test taker what’s on the test. Plus it’s nearly impossible to get a message to anyone during the test. We were only allowed to bring a clear Ziplock bag into the testing room. It could only hold our keys, wallets, and medication pills (no bottles). You couldn’t bring in anything else – no cell phones, no water, no paper, no pencils, no Kleenex, no feminine hygiene products – nothing! There’s nothing to cheat with, and even if you snuck something in, there were proctors everywhere and they’d notice if you did anything suspicious.

It just makes sense to treat the bar exam like the LSAT or the MPRE – you sign up to take the test at the testing center closest to you. You’ll have to pay a little extra to take another state’s test in your home state, but that’s a better plan than having to risk not being able to take the test at all because you’re trapped in an airport after spending thousands on bar prep, a plane ticket, and a hotel.

Love & Support for Bar Exam Takers

Postproc by Kokotron Ruth Carter

Is this you?
Postproc by Kokotron

I’ve received three calls in last week from friends who are studying for the bar exam who needed advice and support. To everyone who is studying for a bar exam and starting to freak out, I know where you’ve been. I was you a year ago.

I definitely had my freak out moments while I was studying for the bar. If it was really bad I would call my friend Eric Mayer. Every time I started to panic he told me that I would be fine if I did whatever BarBri told me to do. It was comforting to hear that. I did always feel confident that I was studying enough, but hearing that following the BarBri plan worked for others was enough to convince me that it could work for me.

I had my biggest pre-bar exam freak out sometime after BarBri class had ended and I was studying on my own every day. I like to pace when I’m going through my flash card and that day, I felt claustrophobic in my home. It’s important to note that I live in an 1800+ square-foot home and it has an open layout. There’s nothing here that should make me feel claustrophobic. My perception was completely skewed by my anxiety.

I decided I needed more space, so I slathered sunscreen on my skin, put on my Camelbak backpack filled with water and a hat, and took a 2.5-hour walk with my flash cards on a 110-degree day. I’m sure I looked like a crazy person muttering to myself while walking up the street and flipping through my cards. When I got home, my shirt was completely drenched with sweat.  Even though I was having a freak out, it turned into a pretty good day. My walk took the edge off my fear and I learned a lot about commercial paper and secured transactions in the process.

Hand Hearts by Krystal T, Ruth Carter

Hang in there!
Hand Hearts by Krystal T

By the day of the bar exam, I was ready to hit it hard. I remember standing around the convention center before the test with some of my law school friends who were older than the average student in our class. We all remarked that taking the bar exam was a challenge, but it didn’t make our lists of the top 5 hardest things we’ve done.  If you have overcome hardship in your life or survived labor and delivery, you can get through the bar exam.

If you’re studying for the July bar exam, just stay the course. Do whatever BarBri tells you to study and do whatever you need to do to memorize the law. Whatever got you through law school will still work. Make sure you’re eating well and getting though exercise and sleep. The occasional ice cream indulgence also helps ease the pain of bar prep.

I Passed!!!

The wait is finally over – I Passed The Arizona Bar Exam!!!

I was pretty nervous for the week before the Arizona Bar scores were posted. I’ve already made the decision to open my own law firm, so not passing the Bar would have put a severe kink in that plan. Reminding myself that there’s nothing I could do to change the outcome calmed my fears a bit, but I constantly had the what-ifs running through my head.

The Arizona Courts website told us that scores would be posted at 4:45pm on Friday, October 7th. I do contract work with a lawyer, and I had a meeting with her and a client that day. I watched the web all day hoping that the State would post results early. When that didn’t happen, I had a friend watch the website for me while I was in my meeting. My meeting ended at 4:30. My friend called me while I was on the road home to tell me that I passed. I was so relieved.

When I tell people that I passed the Bar, a lot of them say, “I had no doubt.” I appreciate their confidence in my abilities, but I wasn’t going to relax until the pass list was posted. While I was studying for the Bar and while I was waiting for my score, I took comfort in a story about someone who mismanaged their time during the test and had to leave an entire essay question blank, and he still passed. However, there are really smart people who don’t pass the Bar. Only 434 of the 612 people who took the Bar Exam in Arizona passed it, which means 178 didn’t, including at least three of my classmates – and all them are wicked smart.

(cc) Rob Boudon on Flickr

And in case you were wondering, once I saw that I passed the bar, I opened my MBE score. If I had opened my MBE score when it arrived, I would have felt good about my results. Despite everything I know after the fact, I think it was the right choice to not open my MBE score when it arrived. The stress I would have felt if I wasn’t happy with my score would have been terrible. It was better to know nothing than to risk making my stress level worse.

So what’s next? I wait for the Character and Fitness Committee to approve my application. I hope to be sworn in to the Arizona Bar by the end of the year.

Thank you to everyone who supported me for the last four years. Your love, guidance, patience, and ice cream have helped me tremendously.

Congratulations to my friends who have passed the bar so far and special congrats to my classmates Melissa Bogden and Emily Gildar for getting the second and third highest scores on the 2011 Arizona July Bar Exam!

MBE Score: To Look Or Not To Look

The Arizona Bar Exam has three sections.

  • Multistate Bar Exam (MBE): 200 multiple choice questions (6 hours), 50% of your score
  • Multistate Essay Exam (MEE): 6 essay questions (3 hours), 30% of your score
  • Multistate Performance Exam (MPE): 2 practical questions (3 hours), 20% of your score

This is my actual MBE score, still in its envelope.

You have to get a score of at least 410 out of 600 to pass the bar. The results of the exam will not be out until October; however, five weeks after the exam, we received our MBE scores in the mail. It is possible to bomb the MBE and still pass the bar, and it’s possible to ace the MBE and still fail. I decide the stress of not knowing anything was less than the stress I would feel if I opened my MBE score and I wasn’t happy with the result. So, when my score arrived, I put it in a drawer instead of opening it.

A lot of people heard about what I did and couldn’t believe that I had enough self-restraint to not open the envelope. Many of them asked if they could open it or at least hold it up to a light bulb so they could know what it says. These people are all banned from my home until after the final bar exam pass list is posted.

Fortunately, I have significant experience with being academically stubborn. During law school, I never checked my grades after the first semester. After each semester was over and final grades were posted, I emailed the assistant dean of the law school. He checked my grades for me and let me know that I passed and that I was in good academic standing. I never knew what my GPA or class rank were and it made me a happier law student.  My focus shifted to learning the material and my stress level dropped significantly. I have a copy of my final transcript on my computer in case a future employer wants to see it, but I’ve never looked at it.

I decided not to open my MBE score because knowing this information would not give me any definitive answers about my bar score. It’s a bit cruel that the powers that be tell us what 50% of our score is and make us sweat it for another 5 weeks. I’d rather take the bar exam and forget about it until the official pass list is posted.

To anyone who would not react well if they score below average on their MBE, I recommend not opening your MBE score when it arrives.  All that matters is that you get the total score you need to pass.

Recap of the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam

I survived the July 2011 Arizona Bar Exam!   I never want to do that again.  I’m grateful for the love and support of my family, friends, and professional mentors during this time.  I wanted to share my top 5 tips of what I’m glad I knew or wish I knew going into the test.

  1. An assortment of Jolly Rancher candies

    Image via Wikipedia

    Eat a Filling Breakfast: We had to be at the convention center at 6:45am on Day 1 of the test and we weren’t going to break for lunch until 12pm.  In the week before the exam I did a breakfast experiment and found that oatmeal made with ½ cup water, ½ cup milk, raisins, sliced almonds, and brown sugar kept me full all morning.  I was so nervous on both mornings of the test that it was hard to force myself to eat, but I knew that would be better than getting half way through the morning and being starving.

  2. Sleep:  I’ve heard it takes the body 2 days to feel tired after a bad night of sleep so the night that really mattered was 2 days before the test.  I often have insomnia, especially when I’m nervous.  I took a sleeping pill 2 nights before the test to ensure that my body and brain would get adequate rest.
  3. Take the Free LunchASU did a very cool thing and provided lunch for us during the bar exam.  It was nice not having to worry about getting lunch in just over an hour and having to deal with the general public.  ASU even humored a superstition that many people in my class have and provided Jolly Ranchers for us.  It was also nice to see some friendly faces from the school.
  4. Prepare for Arctic Conditions:  When the Arizona Bar Exam is in Phoenix, it’s held at the convention center, and it’s freeeeezing.  I heard about this and wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt on Day 1.  By lunch, my lips were blue and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers.  I asked a proctor if we could raise the temperature in the room and she dismissed my request saying that “It’s always this cold.”  For Day 2, I wore a thicker fleece and I was more comfortable, thought by the end of the day, my feet had started to go numb.  I should have brought an extra long-sleeved shirt, fingerless gloves, and a lap blanket.
  5. Do What Works For You:  When I’m running in a race and being passed by other people, I often remind myself that I need to run at my pace.  The same idea works for the bar exam.  It didn’t matter how fast or slow the people around me were going.  There was no need for me to freak out when someone finished and walked out of the room with an hour left on the clock.  All that mattered was that I was thinking clearly and answering the questions to the best of my abilities, and ultimately passing.
Standardized Test

Image by biologycorner via Flickr

I gave it my all on this test.  When I walked out, I had no brain power left.  Since the test, I have been sleeping a lot and slowly been regaining my cognitive functions.  I’m glad that I’m spending my first week after the test on vacation where I don’t have to see anything related to law school or the bar exam.

To the loved ones of people taking the bar exam:  The best thing my family did for me during my bar prep was to give me space.  From the time I graduated until the bar exam, my family never called me.  I occasionally called them to let them know I was alive.  They knew to leave me alone and let me do what I needed to do.

I need to give a special shout out to the woman who went into labor during Day 2 of the New Jersey Bar Exam.  She calmly finished her exam, walked across the street to the hospital, and delivered a healthy baby boy 2 hours later.  You are a phenomenal person.  I hope the labor pains didn’t interfere with your ability to pass the test!

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Legal All-Stars

The bar exam is tomorrow!  I’m praying that what everyone has told me about law school and bar exam prep being harder than the bar exam is true.  I’m ready to kick this test’s ass and to get it behind me.

I have met some amazing legal minds during law school.  I asked a few of them to share some final words of wisdom.

“Don’t try too hard. All you have to do is pass; you don’t have to ace the test.”
Sam Glover, Lawyerist editor-in-chief and ABA Legal Rebel

Bring it on!

Image by pangalactic gargleblaster and the heart of gold via Flickr

“Trust your preparation.  I had the good fortune of studying for the 1997 New York and New Jersey bar exams with my wife (my girlfriend at the time) who was the smartest law student I knew (and is now the most gifted lawyer I know).  If you sincerely completed all of the practice questions and tests the course required, and trained yourself to respond (correctly as often as possible) within the allotted time, you should pass.  That said, I still remember feeling intimidated after seeing the person sitting next to me smiling widely before the exam began on the first day at the Javits Center.  In response, I lowered my head and simply tried to concentrate on the test.  Block out all distractions and solely focus on your goal of passing.  Then, once it is over, let it go and enjoy some time off.”
Ari Kaplan, founder of Ari Kaplan Advisors and author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace

“It is a stupid test. Most of the time, people less intelligent than you pass it. Sometimes people smarter than you fail it. If you pass, you get to be an attorney. If you fail, you cannot immediately be an attorney. Either way, you are a winner of sorts. Eat a decent breakfast and completely wipe the test out of your mind after the last question. Most people use the bar exam as another reason to be unhappy and stressed out. Don’t do that.”
Tyler Coulson, former associate of Sidley Austin, left his law firm to walk across the US with his dog

“Hyperventilating won’t help. Really. The day before the VA bar exam (my first bar exam), I had this mini-panic attack. I suddenly felt the weight of it. However, after a glimpse of rationale thought, I decided that, with less than 24 hours to go, I was better just taking the day easy and letting fate – or rather all of my hard work – take its course. Worrying can be productive but not when it is time to perform.  If you have studied, then simply go out and play your legal instrument. This is one of the last tests of your life where 75-90% will pass. Listen to the symphony in your head and play elegantly.”
Mark Britton, founder of Avvo and ABA Legal Rebel

At this point, there’s nothing more we can do but to walk into the test and do what we know how to do: kick ass.

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from Arizona Lawyers

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

I went to Arizona State University for law school.  Most of my friends and I are taking the Arizona bar exam next week.  In preparation, I reached out to some people who practice law from Arizona, most of who have previously passed the Arizona bar.  I asked them what advice they wished someone had given them before they took the test.  Here’s what they had to say:

Saguaro Sunset

Image by Saguaro Pictures via Flickr

“The absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is speak with any of your fellow test takers about their experience with any portion of the exam.  They will have wax convincingly about seeing issues you did not spot, making you question whether you really studied at all.  Chances are high if you did not see the issue it’s because it was not there.   There is no need to peck away at your self-confidence this way – just turn the subject to something non-exam related, or just walk away.   This is especially good advice after the exam is completed.  Remember, you’ll have long weeks sweating out the results.  There is no need to add to the tension because Billy Bob, who never scored higher than a 72 on any law school exam, uncovered a hidden corporate duty of loyalty issue in that First Amendment question.”
Bill Richards, partner at Bade and Baskin, earned the highest score on the AZ Bar Exam in July 1990

“Before I took the bar, a good friend who had previously taken it told me to trust all of the studying I had done and go in there confident and with guns blazing. That really stuck with me and I took that advice right into the exam hall. I dared this exam to try and stop me from passing! Your state of mind is so very important on the day of the exam. I had people sitting next to me who were completely flustered and wound up missing whole questions on the exam. If you must listen to some arrogant rap music to get your confidence up (Kanye, anyone?). So stay confident and calm (do a yoga class the day before to get centered – I totally did this!) and remember that you worked hard and are ready for this.”
Rachel Rodgers, principal attorney with Rachel Rodgers Law Office

“You will never feel like you’re prepared enough, no matter how much you study. Just accept that! Do your best to remain calm because freaking out just makes you lose focus and forget things. You will, most likely, either run out of time on some questions, or get questions that really throw you for a loop, or both. But remember that EVERYONE is in the same situation, and NO ONE knows the answer to everything. Even the highest scores aren’t ever perfect scores. You only need a D+ to pass, that’s all. Not an A, not a B, not a C. Most of you have never even written C answers in law school, so have confidence in yourselves and know that you can do it! When it comes to the week before the exam, please don’t spend all of your time cramming. At that point you know what you know and cramming will just exhaust you. Focus on your problem areas for one last refresher and try to get out and do some fun things to relax you. The last thing you want to do in the days before the exam is burn yourself out. Lastly, you WILL feel like you failed when you get out of there. It is just part of the process. So don’t be like me and spend the whole night crying and looking into other careers, because chances are you rocked it! Believe in yourself and whatever you do, DON’T talk about the exam when you’re done! You can’t change your answers and usually the people bragging about what they wrote are wrong anyway. Ok, that is all the wisdom I have so good luck and hang in there. It will be over before you know it!”
Jeni Christopher, associate at Schlesinger Conrad, passed the Arizona bar exam in February 2011

“Whatever got you far enough to take the bar exam will see you through it — and allow you to leave the indignity of it far behind.”
David J. Bodney, partner at Steptoe and Johnson 

Good luck everyone!

More Bar Exam Wisdom:

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Bar Exam Wisdom from BarBri Instructors

The bar exam is a few days away.  All of our work for the last 4 years to get into law school, through law school, and through bar prep will come down to a 2-day test (3 days for some people).

Virginia Bar Exam

Image by Philip Larson via Flickr

I reached out to two of my favorite BarBri instructors and asked them to share some final works for wisdom about taking the bar.  Here’s what they had to say:

“Keep your wits about you, and always always put your faith in the curve.”
Douglas Moll, University of Houston Law Center Professor and BarBri instructor

“Bring earplugs – 2 sets.   1 set because you know you’ll be sitting next to someone with tuberculosis and the other set just in case someone ate a burrito for lunch.  Those suckers also can fit up your nose.

“Don’t carb out for lunch unless you want to take a nap in the middle of the afternoon session. Don’t drink a pot of coffee with breakfast unless you want to become a resident of the restroom.  For dinner, eat like a pig.  Carb out like crazy so that you get tired and can fall asleep, despite the anxiety you may be feeling.  In case of emergency, take half a Sominex.

“Bring a pocket flashlight!  True story: On my last day of the California bar, the lights went out during the final performance test for about 2 minutes.  Fortunately for me, someone had told me to bring a tiny pocket flashlight and I did.  Needless to say, I didn’t miss a beat while others around me were quietly cursing me for having one.

“On the morning of the MBE, do 10-15 questions before the test and make your mistakes then.  By the time the exam rolls around you will be properly warmed up.  This advice is gold for those in the parenthetical category.

“Finally, face the bar with a clear mind, a strong will and an open heart (for the hippies!).  It’s just a test.  Beat the living heck out of it.  God bless all of you taking the bar exam this summer, even the non-believers.”
Chuck Shonholtz, BarBri Instructor

Good luck to everyone taking the exam!  As my coach  would say, “Do what you know how to do.”

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Send Love To Stressed Out Bar Exam Candidates

The July Bar Exam is less than two weeks away.  For people who are taking BarBri to prepare, our lectures and classes are over.  We’re at the point where every day we’re given a topic and a simple instruction – “Memorize.”  It’s hard not to let the panic set in.

studying

Image by English106 via Flickr

From what I can tell from my classmates on Facebook, we’re all exhausted, stressed, and reaching the point where we just don’t care about these materials anymore.  My day still starts before 6am so I can workout before hitting the books.  I am studying by 7:30am and I spend most of the day going through my flashcards, outlining essay questions, and going through multiple choice questions.  I end my day by spending an hour writing flashcards for other topics.  My goals are to work efficiently these next few weeks and not burn myself out.

These days anything that takes away from studying or my daily routine, like laundry or errands, is a burden.  I’ve recently become aware that studying for the bar has diminished my ability to do normal things.  When I drive somewhere, I have to triple check that I put my car in the proper gear before taking my foot off the brake so I don’t inadvertently crash into another car.

Studying for the bar has definitely made me more irritable.  Everyone is glad that I have limited contact with the public in general.  The stupidest things annoy me.  My friend says I have crankypants.  My family barely hears from me.  My posts of Facebook and rare phone calls prove that I’m alive.  I made a brief cameo at the 4th of July family gathering and left before the fireworks.  I took a rare study break last week to go to Food Truck Friday in downtown Phoenix.  I didn’t realize how tired I was until I saw my friend and gauged my level of energy against his.

This week I realized that what everyone studying for the bar probably needs is a word of encouragement.  We’re focused on studying and don’t have the time to see our family and friends, but it would be wonderful to hear from you.  Please leave a comment for everyone taking the bar exam this month.  It will do wonders for everyone’s spirits just to know that we’re loved and supported while we’re going through academic-professional hell.

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